Confronting deep moral disagreement: the President's Council on Bioethics, moral status, and human embryos
Nelson, Lawrence J.
Meyer, Michael J.
American Journal of Bioethics 2005 November-December; 5(6): 33-42
The report of the President's Council on Bioethics, Human Cloning and Human Dignity, addresses the central ethical, political, and policy issue in human embryonic stem cell research: the moral status of extracorporeal human embryos. The Council members were in sharp disagreement on this issue and essentially failed to adequately engage and respectfully acknowledge each others' deepest moral concerns, despite their stated commitment to do so. This essay provides a detailed critique of the two extreme views on the Council (i.e., embryos have full moral status or they have none at all) and then gives theoretical grounding for our judgment about the intermediate moral status of embryos. It also supplies an account of how to address profound moral disagreements in the public arena, especially by way of constructing a middle ground that deliberately pays sincere respect to the views of those with whom it has deep disagreements.
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